Teens and sexual consent
With Stampede, summer parties and music festival season upon us…it’s a good time to talk to your teens about sexual consent.
You may be patting yourself on the back right now thinking, “We already had the sex talk – check!”
But, I encourage you to take that conversation one step further by talking about some of the nitty gritty stuff that should, but often doesn’t, get discussed before a sexual encounter.
Maybe your teenager is in a committed relationship. Great. Maybe your teen isn’t even dating yet. Great. It’s still important to talk about this stuff. And remember, it isn’t just one conversation, it’s many. So, here it goes…
I think we need to empower our teens and let them know they have the right to decide when, where and how to have a sexual encounter…and I’m not just talking about intercourse. Any kind of kissing, touching or oral sex is considered sexual activity and your teenager needs to know she or he can stop that activity or change their mind at any time.
Too often we hear stories about things moving too fast, teenagers regretting things that happened or not remembering what happened due to excessive alcohol consumption. Even worse, they may find out in a very public way – on social media – what actually did transpire the night before. This is not the way we want our kids to have their first sexual encounter.
Hey, I know this can be tough stuff to talk to your kids about, but it’s important. These are great conversations to have while they’re still at home. In just a few years, they’ll be gone…living on their own or at university and we want to know that we’ve prepared them with all the right tools and information, right?
Dispelling common myths around consent
So, what is consent? It’s the informed choice to willingly engage in sexual relations. It can be a tough decision for a teen and even more difficult if alcohol is involved. (I’m certainly not condoning underage drinking, I’m just trying to be realistic.) No one can make smart, informed choices when they’ve had too much to drink. There’s a myth out there that alcohol excuses sexual abuse or harassment and the inebriated person “had it coming” or “asked for it.”
Here are some other myths about consent that are worth exploring with your teenager: (Source: Calgary Centre for Sexual Health)
MYTH: Sexual assault is committed by a stranger in a dark alley.
FACT: Sexual assault is most commonly committed by a person known to the survivor – an acquaintance, friend, neighbor, teacher or relative.
MYTH: A person is able to give consent when they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
FACT: If a person’s decision-making abilities are impaired by drugs or alcohol, they are not able to consent to sexual activities. It is a partner’s responsibility never to ask a person who is inebriated for sex.
MYTH: A person cannot change their mind once they have started engaging in sexual activities.
FACT: Consent is ongoing, meaning that a person can change their mind at any point and stop the sexual activity. Just because a person agreed to one activity, does not mean they are consenting to all sexual activities. It is up to partners to check-in during sex to ensure that their partner is comfortable.
MYTH: If a person commits a sexual assault under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they are not responsible for their actions.
FACT: Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol is not an excuse to commit a crime; a person is still responsible for their actions no matter how inebriated they are.
How do you ask for consent?
Many young adults will say that asking for consent is “awkward” and that eye contact and body language provide enough of a signal. But if someone is unsure, they need to ask. I think these are some great ways to ask for consent. (Source: Teen Talk)
- “Would it be okay with you if… ?”
- “I’ve always wanted to try ___ . What do you think?”
- “This feels good for me, does it feel good for you?”
- “Are you comfortable with this?”
- “How do you feel about this?”
- “Do you like this?”
- “What are you comfortable with?”
- “What do you like?”
The Calgary Sexual Health Centre just launched the #Calgarygetsconsent campaign and hashtag…and Stampede couldn’t be a better time. It’s hoping to build on last year’s popular #SafeStampeding hashtag.
The idea is to bring awareness to the topic of consent through social media so that everybody “gets it.”
It’s well known that rates of STIs and unplanned pregnancies increase just weeks after the 10-day party hosted by our City. In the past, Stampede has brought with it a “laissez-faire” attitude towards sex and alcohol. It’s the first time I ever heard the song, “Save a horse, ride a cowboy.”
CEO Pam Krause says the campaign is not intended to put a damper on anyone’s Stampede fun. In fact, just the opposite. She says consensual sex is a great thing – when two people are fully informed, protected and “enthusiastic” about choosing to engage in sexual activities.
If you are already having on-going talks with your teens about sex, working consent into the conversation should be easy enough. If you are not having these conversations, you may want to reach out to your local sexual health group for help. They are more than willing to take your questions and they want to hear from parents. We play THE most important role in our kids’ sex education.
Have you discussed the idea of sexual consent with your teenager?